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UPDATE 2-Philippines, U.S. to begin 2-week joint military drill on Monday

Global Apr 11, 2021 17:50
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© Reuters.

* Filipino, American troops to hold scaled-down Balikatan
drills
* Defence ministers discuss South China Sea, regional
security
* U.S. defence chief reiterates importance of VFA -
statement
* Philippines seeks U.S. assistance in Moderna vaccine
delivery

(Recasts with Philippine military chief's statement)
By Enrico Dela Cruz
MANILA, April 11 (Reuters) - Philippine and U.S. soldiers
will conduct a two-week joint military exercise from Monday,
resuming the annual training event after last year's
cancellation due to the pandemic, the Philippine military chief
said on Sunday.
The announcement came after the two countries' defence
secretaries held a phone call to discuss the drills, the
situation in the South China Sea, and recent regional security
developments.
Unlike previous exercises, however, this year's "Balikatan"
(Shoulder-to-Shoulder) drills to test the readiness of their
militaries to respond to threats such natural disasters and
militant extremist attacks, will be scaled down.
Only 1,700 troops -- 700 from the United States and 1,000
from the Philippines -- will participate, unlike previous
exercises which involved as many as 7,600 soldiers, said
Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana.
"There will be physical contact but it is minimal," he said.
The Philippines has protested against the presence of the
Chinese boats inside its 200-mile exclusive economic zone at
Whitsun Reef in the strategic waterway, repeatedly asking China
to move the vessels away.
Chinese diplomats, however, have said the fishing boats were
just sheltering from rough seas and no militia were aboard.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, China and Vietnam
have competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.
In the phone call on Sunday between Philippine Defence
Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd
Austin, Austin also reiterated the importance of the Visiting
Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries, according to a
statement issued by Lorenzana's department.
Lorenzana committed to discussing the matter with President
Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte last year unilaterally cancelled the two-decade-old
VFA in an angry response after an ally was denied a U.S. visa.
The agreement provides the legal framework under which U.S.
troops can operate on a rotational basis in the Philippines.
The VFA withdrawal period, however, has been twice extended,
creating what Philippine officials say is a window for better
terms to be agreed.
Relations between Washington and its former Asian colony
have been complicated since 2016 when Duterte, who has
criticised U.S. foreign policy while befriending China, rose to
power.
Duterte has said Washington must pay more if it wants to
maintain the VFA.
Lorenzana also sought the assistance of Austin in speeding
up the delivery of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by
U.S. pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Moderna MRNA.O
that the Philippines has ordered.
Austin "would look into the issue and bring it to the
attention of the office concerned", the statement said.

 

UPDATE 2-Philippines, U.S. to begin 2-week joint military drill on Monday
 

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Cage Alunday
Cage Alunday Apr 11, 2021 21:20
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how do i make the best
 
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